A HUGELY respected member of staff from a Bournemouth school stepped down after more than three decades service yesterday.

Teresa Cooper, Mrs Cooper to generations of youngsters, retired from Elm Academy after first taking up a paid role at the Holloway Avenue school in 1989.

Described by the current head teacher as "part of the fabric of the school" Mrs Cooper started as a dinner lady and went onto become a behavioural support worker.

School principal Jo Fish told the Echo: "She has such a great relationship with the children, they just love her.

"It is the nurturing side to her, she is just like their nan.

"We are going to miss her, she is part of the fabric of the school. Lots of parents will remember her, there is a lot of trust there."

Colleagues suspect Mrs Cooper wanted to slip away quietly without a fuss, but even in these Covid times, they couldn't let her go without letting her know how much she has meant to the school over the decades.

So all the current pupils have worked on recording video messages to say goodbye.

Mrs Cooper, who says she is looking forward to retiring with her husband at their Bear Cross home, said: "This school has been my second home really.

"I have seen a few headteachers come and go, but they have a brilliant team here now who are going to take the school forward.

"Jo, Gemma, Kathy and Rachel, they are just leading the school to better places."

Speaking to the Echo on her last day, she said: "I will come back to visit, I don't think I could stay away to be honest."

"I wanted to go quietly, but it is not working out that way. I've never cried so much.

"I'm going to miss the kids so much, they have been such a big part of my life. I am even seeing adults coming into the school who were here when they were pupils – now they

are bringing their children in."